It is a wonder to me where inspiration comes from sometimes. This was drawn on November 5, 2018, the day before the midterm elections. I wasn’t consciously thinking about the elections; just started with a doodle. Today, 4 days later, it strikes me that the man in the drawing vaguely resembles Gavin Newsom, an acquaintance who won the election for California Governor 3 days ago – the day after the drawing. That the predominant color is blue and a “wave” is featured was also “unintentional”.
I’m trying something a little different to communicate more complex scenes with a minimalist view. This started with a line tracing of a famous photograph of three farmers on the way to a dance by August Sander. You can see other examples of this direction in the gallery.
My first cousin twice removed, Gus Arriola, created the “Gordo” comic strip which ran in newspapers across the country from 1941 to 1985.
Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, described Gordo as “probably the most beautifully drawn strip in the history of the business.” His work was also praised by the Mexican government as well as the California State Legislature for its promotion of international understanding.
He passed in 2008.
My brother and I got to visit him at his home studio in Carmel when we were kids. What an experience! We got to meet the inspiration for characters “Pepito” (his son, Carlin) and “Poosy Gato” (his cat, “Smelly Dave”) and he explained the process of creating a syndicated comic strip – I was transfixed .
Gus was an early influence on my art and on my life. Who remembers Gordo?
While an Art student at UC Davis in the late ‘60’s, I took some theatrical set design classes and spent time in the set shop. One of my teachers, Gene Chesley, was a hell of a guy and a key influence on me.
One time he asked me to transfer a drawing of a sunset on a piece of paper to the entire stage backdrop canvas for a production – about 20’ high and 60’ long. He suggested I use a grid on the paper and a larger grid on the canvas and draw in each square.
Seemed like a lot of work to me, so I just had the canvas stretched onto the set elevator covering entire back wall of the shop, found a 15’ piece of 1×1 lumber, taped a large piece of charcoal to end and drew directly on the canvas with my giant pencil.
The whole shop was abuzz about what I was doing – they’d never seen anything like it before and I could have easily ruined an expensive piece of canvas.
Then Gene walked in and everything got quiet … I could tell he had been expecting something quite different; my canvas was not an exact 1 for 1 rendering of the original drawing. I don’t know if he was smiling or biting his lip, but he didn’t jump on me or call me a lazy bastard, he just said “well OK, this will work”.
I look back at him now and admire his ability to grant beingness so, so much – truly a great man who left us way too young.
I recently learned that Henri Matisse also drew with a long stick sometimes … maybe Gene knew that.
One of my recent favorites. I am fascinated by the viewer’s participation in reconstructing the image. The neck doesn’t have to be behind the shirt collar, the shirt collar can be vertical, the hands don’t have to be connected to arms and shoulders, the eyes don’t need whites. This is communication.